Southern Italy is known for ice cream, and last year I visited Calabria, down in the toe of Italy, where the gelato was sublime.

I felt it my culinary duty to eat at least three ice creams a day. My favourite flavour is yoghurt, but I also like perfumed citrus such as Bergamot.

In Sicily they eat granita, which is like a sorbet but with larger ice granules - a sophisticated slushie if you will. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat granita for breakfast. You see businessmen in immaculate suits eating brioche stuffed with granita. In the searing heat of summer, it’s just the ticket – light and refreshing.

What is the difference between gelato and ice cream? Gelato is made with more milk and fewer egg yolks, or even no egg at all. Ice cream is basically a frozen custard. Gelato is served at a warmer temperature than ice-cream.

I have ice cream in my family history. Clerkenwell and Islington were the nexus of Italian immigration from 1870 to around 1930, and there is still an annual Italian festival in Clerkenwell. Some of my Italian family went to America, but most stayed in the UK. My great-great-grandfather, newly immigrated from Italy at the end of the 19th century, sold ice cream on the streets of Islington while working at a Kings Cross ice cream factory. When his wife, my nonna, died, she left the family some ‘penny lick’ glasses, thick ‘shot’ glasses which cost a penny a lick.

I'm giving you recipes which don't require an ice cream maker. Possibly my favourite ice cream is the soft serve ’99’, so-called because the King of Italy used to have 99 elite guards, so everything elite became known as a 99. The recipe below is a facsimile of what you get from an ice cream van, serve in a cornet or a cup or on a waffle.

I’ve also provided a childhood favourite, lemon sorbet stuffed into a whole frozen lemon. This was a popular dessert choice in old-fashioned Italian trattorias, and stands the test of time.

Ham & High: Pomegranate Granita inspired by the popular Sicilian dessert.Pomegranate Granita inspired by the popular Sicilian dessert. (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Pomegranate Granita (Serves 6)

1L pomegranate juice
2 tbsp caster sugar
Slug pomegranate molasses (optional)
Handful pomegranate seeds to garnish


Simmer the juice and sugar together until the sugar is melted. Add, if you wish, a slug of pomegranate molasses. Leave to cool.
Pour into a shallow wide container and put in the freezer for an hour.
After an hour, use a fork to break up the crystals. Replace in the freezer.
Repeat this 2 or 3 times more. At the end, use the fork to create large icy crystals.
Serve, decorating with some pomegranate seeds.

Ham & High: Lemon sorbet served trattoria style.Lemon sorbet served trattoria style. (Image: Kerstin Rodgers)

Lemon sorbet, served trattoria style (Serves 4)

Choose large Italian Amalfi-type lemons (which I've seen sold in Waitrose) if you can get hold of them. Kids love this. They should be made ahead of being served and kept in the freezer. You can also make it with oranges.


4 large lemons or oranges
150 g caster sugar
1 zest of unwaxed lemon or orange
1 egg white, whisked until stiff


Cut off the end of the lemon or orange to make a 'hat' and trim the bottom so that it will stand up on a flat surface. Scoop out the flesh with a sharp knife or serrated grapefruit spoon and strain so that you have juice. Put the fruit shells in the freezer.
Using a small saucepan containing 150ml of water, add the sugar and the zest. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Add the strained lemon/orange juice. Let it cool then freeze in a plastic container.
Once frozen, remove from the container and blend it with the egg white. Freeze again until firm.
Scoop the sorbet into the empty shells, packing it in well and letting it bulge out of the top. Add the 'hat' then freeze again until you serve.

Soft serve ice cream (Serves 6​)

This recipe is as near as dammit to ice cream van ice cream.

600 ml double cream
1 400g tin condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla paste


Whisk the double cream until thick, then add the condensed milk and vanilla. Whisk all the ingredients together until thick.
Take a piping bag and put a large star piping nozzle (around 18mm) in the bottom point of the bag. Don't cut yet! Fill the bag with the mixture and put it in the freezer. Remove from the freezer after 4 hours and cut the end of the bag so you can pipe it.
Pipe into a cornet or cup.